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On his millionth album (or does it just feel that way?), Willie Nelson teams with a new band — except for Family Band harmonicat Mickey Raphael — and duets with some major leaguers. Most of the time, It Always Will Be feels like a Willie album of old. Recorded for the Lost Highway label and produced by James Stroud in Nash Vegas, it’s an inspired collection of fine songs for the most part, and Nelson is in fine voice with the edges beginning to show just a tiny bit. He wrote the title cut, one of the strongest here. Lyrically, it’s tender without being overly sentimental, sweet without being saccharine, and delivered with his trademark elegance and grace. The cover of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “Picture in a Frame,” though faithful, puts Nelson’s stamp firmly on it. With Raphael’s harmonica, Willie’s acoustic, and a skeletal band featuring an understated pedal steel, Nelson’s dignity in the delivery is deeply moving. When he’s this on fire, the only place he usually blows it is in duets — at least on his own records. There are duets here. “Be That As It May,” with daughter Paula and written by her, is just a gorgeous country song. The pair’s voices contrast beautifully and the tune itself is tight and hooky in a Texas country music way. “Dreams Come True,” with Norah Jones, is a pretty swing tune that is forgettable but far from offensive, and Lucinda Williams is the star on her own “Overtime.” Willie and Lucinda were made to sing together; the melancholy of the tune lends itself well to her whiskey contralto and his easy baritone. The tune sweetly drifts and lilts with swaying guitars, an accordion, and whispering brushwork. Toby Keith makes an appearance singing background vocals on his “Tired,” but Nelson makes the song his own. Nelson’s “Texas” is a wonderful mariachi blues song that gives way to bittersweet Southwestern honky tonk balladry and showcases his excellent guitar work. The set closes with the album’s only dog, a big-beat over-produced dancy punch-up of Gregg Allman’s classic “Midnight Rider.” It sucks bad. Why this song made the cut is a mystery, but it’s a typical thing for Nelson, to add something that just doesn’t fit. Thankfully, it’s the album’s final song and can be skipped. Be that as it may, It Always Will Be is the best outing for Nelson since Teatro.